Laetitia and her group stood in the mudroom of the small ship that was their temporary home while visiting Antarctica. They stood in line wearing rain pants and knee-high rubber boots as they donned parkas and life jackets in preparation for the Zodiac ride ashore. Their destination was a narrow strip of land on Elephant Island. Here in 1916, Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean, and four other men started their 800-mile journey toward South Georgia Island in a small lifeboat. Their amazing feat of navigation and fortitude succeeded and they organized an expedition to rescue remainder of the men from the failed Imperial Transantarctic Expedition, after their ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice.
Laetitia’s group enjoyed watching a colony of chinstrap penguins, including grey and black chicks and black and white parents with the characteristic “chinstrap” marking. Some stood as they incubated an egg on their feet, covered with a flap of skin and feathers that keeps the egg warm. Both parents share incubating and nurturing duties.
Afterwards, the group visited a research station. While her group took a tour of the facility given by a staff member, Laetitia chatted with the head of the station and was surprised when he offered her a job. A medical emergency evacuation had left the group short-staffed. The position would be temporary until the regular staff member returned, but he had no idea how long that would be. As he described the job she found it interesting. After two years of leading daily tours, thought she would welcome something different for a while. She said she’d have to check things out back home and would contact him in a couple of days. Meanwhile, she wrote a limerick about the chinstrap penguins they saw today.
Black and white with chinstrap and black bill
What these penguins eat likely won’t thrill
They cry out in harsh tones
That are said to crack stones
For their food’s ninety-five percent krill.